As her schoolmates cheered, Stevenson Elementary School third-grader Lily Rickert wrapped up a week devoted to kindness by pushing a pie into Principal Angie Ullum's face.

That may not sound like an act of kindness, but at least the pie was Ullum's favorite: lemon meringue.

The event, held Jan. 26, was the climax of students' effort to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House. In all, students collected more than $915 during the week.

Third-graders' donation of $318 was the largest, so the entire class was entered into a drawing for the right to wield the pie.

The event also was part of the Great Kindness Challenge, in which all three Grandview Heights schools participated Jan. 22-26. The challenge is a national initiative presented by Kids for Peace, a California-based antibullying organization.

"Their whole goal is to help find proactive ways to create positive and respectful school environments," said Grandview Heights High School college and career counselor Jane O'Shaughnessy.

"If you're being kind to others, you're not bullying," she said.

O'Shaughnessy said she brought the Great Kindness Challenge to the attention of her colleagues. During the district's participation in the annual event, each school came up with age-appropriate activities to encourage students.

"It was a team effort," O'Shaughnessy said. "Our goal is to encourage a culture of kindness in our district. Hopefully, students will carry the idea of kindness beyond this week and through the entire school year."

The district plans to make the Great Kindness Challenge an annual event, she said.

Stevenson third-graders made "Choose Kind" buttons that staff members at all three schools wore during the week.

At the high school, teachers were given a list of kindness quotes and chose one each day to post in their classroom, O'Shaughnessy said.

The quotes included those from Mark Twain ("Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see") and William Arthur Ward ("A warm smile is the universal language of kindness").

"Each teacher chose one day to hold a discussion about that day's quote with students," O'Shaughnessy said. "The feedback I got from teachers has been really encouraging. Students were eager to participate in the discussion with their own ideas about the importance of being kind to others."

High school teachers also distributed to students a checklist of 50 kind acts.

"The challenge to the students was how many of these simple acts of kindness can you do in one week," O'Shaughnessy said. "The 50th was to create your own kind deed."

At Stevenson, each day's morning announcements included a message about kindness, and students participated in themed spirit-wear days during the week to help promote the theme of kindness, elementary guidance counselor Stephanie Doran said.

Students also were given a checklist of kind acts they were challenged to perform and a blank card they were encouraged to take home and use to write and send a note of kindness or thanks to someone, she said.

But the highlight was the fundraising effort.

"We chose Ronald McDonald House because that is an organization that has helped many people in our community," Doran said.

The Great Kindness Challenge had an impact on students, she said.

"We've noticed our students were being nicer to each other during the week," Doran said. "We hope that spirit continues. We've got a great group of students to begin with. Kindness comes naturally to them."

Lily, who had the privilege of smashing the pie into her principal's face, said the week was fun and important.

"It's a really good way to spread the idea of kindness," she said. "I think everybody was being nicer to each other."

When her name was drawn at the assembly, "I was really excited," Lily said. "I was excited that my class raised the most money."

As Doran handed her the pie, "She told me to just push it into Mrs. Ullum's face, not try to throw it," she said. "So that's what I did."

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